What can the Celtics really take away from blowing out the Bulls?
BOSTON – There’s a very good chance we will never see a team get routed like the Chicago Bulls did at the hands of the Boston Celtics.
It should be cherished as a game that reminds us all how good the Celtics can be when they come close to their peak talent-wise.
But it’s one win over arguably the worst team in the NBA that just fired their head coach, whose replacement doesn’t seem to be much if at all an upgrade (five-man lineup change after falling down 17-0, I get that. But to do the same early in the third quarter after a much shorter Celtics spurt?).
Take all those factors into account, throw in a splash of better overall talent on Boston’s part and sprinkle in improved Celtics chemistry … you have a recipe for an unprecedented Saturday night smackdown.
There was so much good for the Celtics in this game, that picking out what really served as building block material was a lot harder than normal. But there were some clear aspects of the game that shined brighter than others for Boston that will serve them well going forward.
Boston opened the game with a 17-0 start and were able to maintain a double-digit lead for the rest of the game. We have seen them have fast starts, hit a bump or two in the road, and next thing you know we have a ball game.
That was not the case against the Bulls.
The Celtics jumped on them from the opening tap and never gave Chicago any sense of hope that this game would be anything other than a Celtics pummeling. Playing with that kind of focus, this was as close as we’ve seen the Celtics to playing a full 48-minute game this season.
And while no one anticipates they will blow out teams by such an insanely large margin going forward, playing with the kind of consistent effort we saw on Saturday will deliver similar outcomes.
During Boston’s five-game winning streak, keeping the ball from sticking on one side of the floor has been huge. We know they have a lot of guys who can get buckets. But by stepping up their passing game, it makes this team so much more difficult to defend.
On this particular play, Gordon Hayward has the ball and gets a screen set by Terry Rozier, followed by another one being set by Guerschon Yabusele.Yabusele makes a sharp dive towards the basket which draws the attention of two Bulls defenders. Hayward sees the defensive mishap and well, here’s how he handled it.
Recognizing opportunities to generate great scoring opportunities with better passes, has been a definite plus for Boston lately. In the last five games, Boston has averaged 319.4 passes made per game which ranks 7th in the NBA. For the season, the Celtics have made 289.1 passes per game which ranks 16th in the league.
Already one of the better teams in the league in assists, the Celtics have averaged a league-best 30.6 assists in their last five games which is up from their 25.6 assists per game average which ranks 7th in the NBA.
Next Man Up
The Boston Celtics would love to have a full compliment of players, but it’s clear that this team doesn’t lose a minute of sleep if one of their core guys goes down. Saturday night reinforced what has been a constant with the Brad Stevens-coached Celtics. The latest to deliver a where-did-that-come-from performance was Daniel Theis who tallied a double-double against the Bulls that included a career-high 22 points to go with 10 rebounds and four blocked shots while filling in for Al Horford (knee soreness).
One of the keys to Boston’s regular season success a year ago was how well they played away from the TD Garden. Boston was 23-18 on the road last season which was the fourth-best road record in the NBA. Saturday’s win improved Boston to 8-7 on the road which is good for the 8th -best road record in the league. Steady improvement away from the TD Garden, particularly against bad teams like Chicago, is critical to this team’s continued ascension in the East. The Celtics play two of their next three games on the road, facing a pair of sub-.500 teams in Washington (11-15) and Atlanta (6-20).
One of my favorite parts of last night’s game was the post-game scrum in the locker room involving Terry Rozier. While pleased with the victory, it was clear that the Celtics guard was not the least bit pleased with some of the things he was hearing earlier this season when the Celtics were a muddling around the .500 mark. “We won our last couple of games so we want to keep it going,” Rozier told reporters. “Everybody can shut up. It was very annoying, when we were losing; very annoying.”
They just beat the doors off the Bulls unlike any team on the road in NBA history, let alone Celtics history.
This team is so much better when they collectively play with attitude and don’t buy into the hype of how good they are. Rozier’s post-game comments sound like a guy who wants to continue playing with a chip on their shoulder fueled by doubters, which is something that’s harder to do when you’re beating the crap out of teams.